Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1859. The son of a prosperous civil engineer, he was expected to follow the family profession, but due to his ill health was allowed to study law at Edinburgh University. Stevenson became distant from his parents when his growing disillusion with the Presbyterian respectability of his parents class. Whilst in his early twenties he suffered serious respiratory problems. The effects of the Scottish climate forced his to travel to warmer places. After a lot of travelling he finally settled in Samea with his family and died six years later.
It was Stevenson’s harsh Calvinistic upbringing and constant fight against ill health, which led to the preoccupation with death and the darker side too human nature; you can see this in his work. He believed that there were two sides to humans, good and evil.
In the 1950’s the Victorian society didn’t like these thoughts Charles Darwin came up with a scientific theory of evolution. This had a huge impact on everybody in Victorian society and they chose not to believe his theory. Charles Darwin lost many friends and society turned against him.
Duality is first hinted at in Mr Utterson in the first paragraph of the novel, when he is describes “Mr Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged continence, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow loveable” From the first few lines in the novel there is already a sense of duality in Utterson because they are saying he is a rugged man which is never lighted by a smile but yet he is some how loveable. These are two completely contradicting descriptions.
When you are first introduced to Mr Enfield, it is put across that seemingly respectable men have things to hide because Mr Utterson is referred to as a very respectable man a perfect Victorian gentlemen and Mr Enfield who is also thought of as a respectable man because he is well known about town, both Mr Utterson and Mr Enfield are both reserved and formal and do not like to gossip.
But only a couple of paragraphs after Mr Enfield being introduced in the novel he is telling Mr Utterson about the man tramping on the child, Mr Utterson asks him to describe the man that did it, he is suspicious because it is Dr Jekyll who lives in the house and Mr Enfield is saying that the man entered the house after using a key, which obviously meant he lived there. As Mr Enfield tells him Mr Utterson is constantly questioning him and then sighs but doesn’t say a word, at this point I think Mr Enfield realises that maybe he shouldn’t have said anything because he says, “here is another lesson to say nothing. I am ashamed of my long tongue.” It is quite obvious that Mr Utterson has something to hide because he has suspicions but will not say anything.
It is in this incident where the young girl gets trampled that we get our first description of Hyde, he is described as having something wrong with his appearance, “something displeasing” and “he gives a strong feeling of deformity” but Mr Enfield cant actually say why he felt like that. This is the first signs that Hyde is not nice or a good person. This incident is horrific to Mr Enfield because it is not the way Victorian men are meant to be like. Mr Enfield also described Hyde as saten, which relates to the devil, evil, hell. I think Mr Utterson is surprised at what he is being told by Mr Enfield because he knows that Dc Jekyll lives in the house where the door is, but the description of Mr Enfield given is of coarse Hyde doesn’t match up with the description of Dc Jekyll, but Mr Enfield said he had a key, and the cheque Hyde brought out was “…the matter of ten pounds in gold and a cheque for the balance on Coutts’s drawn by payable to bearer” the name of the cheque is very well known but Mr Enfield does not tell us who it is. From this Mr Utterson does become obsessed with Hyde.
The Carew’s murder was described very much like the murder of the little girl, where the body was trampled and the bones were shattered. Again Mr Hyde was described as “small and wicked looking.” There is clear a connection between the two cases and the murderer.
Stevenson has written his novel from many points of view. We share Utterson’s point of view for much of the novel, but he is a secretive man not given to revealing everything he knows until he is ready. In addition to this, he is not in full possession of the truth until the very end of the novel, so we are kept in suspense too, often believing what he believes, but increasingly suspecting that there are more things than meets the eye.
At the end Stevenson has written in first person narrative of Dc Layon and Dc Jekyll. He waits until the end because Dc Jekyll knows the full truth and there would not be the same suspense if Stevenson had writing in first person narrative throughout the whole novel.
Stevenson also brings in legal documents and letters into the novel this helps to move the narrative on and make the novel more interesting and realistic.
Stevenson has used pathetic fallacy a lot to reinforce the themes of the novel, just before the Carew murder the weather is described by a maid. “Although a fog rolled over the city in the small hours, the early part of the night was cloudless, and the lane, which the maid’s window overlooked, was brilliantly lit by the full moon”
As Mr Hyde commits the murder the weather is clear this is because it is symbolising Hyde’s conscience. Because Hyde is evil he doesn’t have a conscious where as when he turns back to Dc Jekyll it will be foggy to symbolise Dc Jekyll’s conscience which he will have because he is guilty for what Mr Hyde has done.
The theme of duality is also reinforced in the novel by the setting, for example where Jekyll and Hyde lives. In the first chapter Jekyll’s house is described as Mr Utterson and Me Enfield walk past. ” With its freshly painted shutters, well polished brasses, and general cleanliness and gaiety of note, instantly caught and pleased the eye of the passenger. Two doors from one corner, on the left hand side going east, the line was broken by the entry of a court” it then moves on too describe were Hyde lives “a certain sinister block of buildings thrust forward its gable on the street.
It was two storeys high; showed no windows, nothing but a door on the lower storey and a blind forehead of discoloured wall on the upper; and bore in every feature the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. The door was equipped with neither bell nor knocker,” This building obviously relates to Hyde because it sounds horrid and a dark evil place. Where as where Jekyll lives is described as pleasing to the eye.
I think Stevenson wrote this novel very successfully keeping the suspense till the end, changing the narrative structure throughout the novel and using pathetic fallacy and descriptions of setting. Stevenson has successfully presented Victorian society as a society which wished to present Victorian society as a society which wished to present a respectable and honourable face to the world, whilst hiding deep, dark sordid secrets just below the service.
This is a novel in which everyone has something to hide, everyone lives a double life and is at pains to ensure that the veneer of outward respectability is maintained at all costs. It is apparent that having a Hyde is having the best of both worlds because you can then be the respectable person you need to be to fit into society but also be able to do the things you should not do with out it affecting your status.